Never Scoop Up Dead Leaves Again With the Best Robotic Pool Cleaners
Put the skimmer down.
Published Jun 16, 2022 1:00 AM
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We’ll admit it, watching the pros transform a gunky, pea soup green pool situation into pristine waters is so satisfying we’ll mindlessly scroll through videos for hours. If you own a pool, however, you know there is a lot that goes into properly maintaining one, and that carefully pouring a cocktail of chemicals doesn’t always magically solve your problems (seriously, we won’t sugarcoat this one, you need to check on your water routinely). Luckily, there is an easier way to make the task feel less daunting: investing in one of the best robotic pool cleaners.
“Cleaners have the ability to pick up organic matter that settles on the bottom of a pool between weekly cleanings,” explains Mark Jones, creator of the viral TikTok videos of himself and his team at Blue Street Pools, who adds he prefers those that scour more than your pool’s floor, but its walls and the ever-elusive waterline (say so long to your skimmer). When looking for pool cleaners, you have to decide which features are most important to you: Hands-free where you can set it and forget it? Powerful suction? A cordless unit? “Cleaners aren’t all made the same, and some features you may not want or need,” adds Jones.
But the best robotic pool cleaners, below, make cleaning any pool easier for homeowners, since all of our favorites get to work automatically.
- Best overall: Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus
- Best for large pools: Jacuzzi JCRX
- Best for tight quarters: Seagull 600 Cordless Robotic Pool Cleaner
- Best for skimming: Ariel Solar Breeze
Best Overall: Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner
Ideal pool type: In-ground | Cleaning time: 2 hours | Weight: 19 pounds | Filter: Twin fine cartridges
What we like
- Control remotely
- Won’t suck up your energy bill (dirt, on the other hand…)
- Powerful suction of 4,500 GPH
- Wi-Fi connectivity costs extra
Why we chose it: No matter your liner—vinyl or tile—this robot will swim over every inch of your pool without getting stuck.
There really isn’t a single Maytronics robotic cleaner you can go wrong with (the makers of the cult-favorite Dolphins), Jones stresses. But when it comes to balancing price and power, the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus is incredibly impressive. Its hefty suction abilities mean you won’t have to worry about dodging dead leaves or stepping on dirt. We found its two brushes do plenty to make sure your walls are always wiped down, especially if you take advantage of setting a cleaning schedule—every day, every other day, or every third day—and after each use all you have to do is hose down its twin filters. Of course, this particular Dolphin is only suitable for pools up to 50 feet in length due to the length of its power cord, but its swivel design refuses to tangle (even if you decide to share the water with it while it works). You won’t even mind that it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of its high-tech alternatives like the app-controlled Triton PS Plus, though you can pay extra for add-ons like a Wi-Fi feature.
Best for Large Pools: Jacuzzi JCRX
Ideal pool type: Inground | Cleaning time: Varies | Weight: 38 pounds | Filter: Cartridge
What we like
- 4 powerful rotating brushes
- Releases water quickly for easy removal
- 2-year manufacturer warranty
Why we chose it: Pay a bit more to have this bot go the extra mile without stopping, thanks to an extra-large canister.
This pool vacuum could easily be confused with an all-terrain vehicle—its treaded wheels make it possible to travel over every liner surface imaginable and maneuver throughout any shape of pool or obstacle in its path, whether it’s pool steps, slides, or forgotten toys. That’s one of the reasons why it’s a favorite of Brian Wells, one of Leslie’s pool experts. “Its quad rotating scrubbing brushes offer more effective cleaning (two in the front and two in the back),” he shares. Choose between two cycles through the control panel: floor only or floor, walls, and waterline. But our favorite part might be the fact that, despite the lack of app connectivity, you’ll never have to guess whether the canister needs to be dumped or not. Its extra-large basket is see-through, and if you purchase the unit through Leslie’s, it comes equipped with a blue LED light to help you monitor its fill line even in the dark (if you don’t notice the light, it’s time to dump it). Despite being the heaviest bot on the list, you don’t have to do any heavy lifting: A retrieve button will send the device to the top of the pool for you. Just wait for it to eject all the water and place it on the complimentary caddy to easily move it around. A premium clean like this, however, can only be achieved at a premium price—this model will set you back upwards of $1,000.
Best for Tight Quarters: Aiper Seagull 600 Cordless Robotic Pool Cleaner
Ideal pool type: Above or in-ground | Cleaning time: 50 minutes | Weight: 9.8 pounds | Filter: Bag
What we like
- Fully charges in 3 to 4 hours
- Flat pool bottoms only
Why we chose it: A cordless cleaner that’s so small, you may forget it’s even there.
Not every pool takes up an entire backyard—for round, above ground pools and smaller retreats, all you need is the Seagull 600. It’s powered by a rechargeable battery (that’s waterproof!) and two powerful motors that help it run for up to 3.5 hours every cleaning time. (But will you really need it to be on that long if your pool is only 20 feet in length? Hardly.) Simply drop this little helper in and let it go; once the bot has completed the job, it’s smart enough to self-dock near the pool edge (or if its battery drops too low), so you’ll never have to get into the water to retrieve it. For its price, you get a lot on the cleaning front: Not only will it suck up dirt and debris, it captures finer particles like dust through its two different suction doors, so your actual pool filter won’t have to work so hard. And while all the other vacuums we’ve listed are pretty bulky and hefty in size, the Seagull is under 10 pounds and just a bit bigger than a foot wide.
Best for Skimming: Solar Breeze Ariel Automatic Robot Skimmer
Ideal pool type: Above or in-ground | Cleaning time: Varies | Weight: 15 pounds | Filter: Mesh tray
What we like
- Solar powered (an energy saver!)
- Cute color palette
- No filters (just slide the tray out and dump the debris)
- Needs to be rinsed down about once a week
Why we chose it: An above-water savior (never accidentally touch a bug while backstroking again).
If you spend most of your summer poolside, we’d wager that reaching for a skimmer day in, day out becomes an annoyingly menial task (or maybe it’s just a pain for your wrists and shoulders). If you’re tired of having to scoop up everything that has fallen into your pool while you’ve been away, before diving in consider Ariel, the robotic skimmer. This vac travels 10 to 20 feet every minute, so it may even prevent most sediment from ever settling as it sucks up everything in its path that floats in addition to particles as small as 200 microns. You may be wondering how this bot can chill in the water without power from a cord for so long—all of its power is harnessed from the sun. Though if you do have your pool situated in a shady place, don’t fret—you can still charge it for a 10-hour operation time. Plus if it’s swimming when you are, its built-in sensors will be sure to avoid you and any other obstacle in its path.
We Also Like
- While the best pool vacuums are only as powerful as their energy source, we can’t help but think how crazily convenient it would be to not only have a robotic pool vacuum, but an entirely cordless one. For less than $400, this battery-operated buddy can handle smaller pools in 60- to 90-minute increments of time thanks to a waterproof power system (and with 3,000-plus positive reviews, we’d like to think it’s as good as it says).
- Wells also recommended the Polaris VRXiQ+. “It’s a great robotic pool cleaner with fully featured Wi-Fi connectivity,” he shares. “It provides complete-coverage cleaning of the pool floor, walls, and waterline.” Really, the app is part of what’s most impressive about this bot, reminding us of our favorite robot vacuums—there are five different cleaning modes (including a completely custom option), targeted spot and deep cleans, and notification system that will let you know when the canister is full or the filter is dirty. And while all of this may sound too good to be true, it sort of is; the price tag is what ushers us back into reality: $1,599. (The 9650iQ does cost a little less.)
How We Chose These Products
The best robotic pool cleaners are independent, hands-off machines that automatically scrub the surface of your pool from the floors to the walls and, sometimes, even the waterline. While there are plenty of options out there, including those fancy enough to connect to Wi-Fi and control from your phone, they do come with a steep price tag (we’re talking upwards of $1,000) and can be incredibly heavy and bulky. Knowing not everyone has a huge pool in their backyard, we tried to keep our picks balanced in size, weight, price, and features. All of our favorites—with a few recommended directly by the experts at Bluestreet Pools and Leslie’s—are easy to clean, quickly charge up or come with a longer tangle-free cord, and still promise to keep your pool free of dirt and debris, no matter how frequently you turn it on or schedule to use it.
Our Shopping Checklist
Pool Shape and Size
“When it comes to the size of the pool, it’s best to look at the length of the cord the cleaner comes with to ensure it will be long enough to reach the furthest point of your pool from where you will be putting it in,” offers Wells. Pool length maximums are important to take note of here, since your cleaner will be limited by this range (or less, if the cord starts to tangle).
Wells adds one of the major benefits of going with a robotic pool vacuum is knowing it’s compatible with any type of pool, above ground or in. However, there are some robotic options out there that are above ground only (these won’t automatically climb the walls of your pool).
Unlike standard pool vacuums, the robotic equivalent’s power doesn’t rely on your pool’s pump and filter system. Instead you’ll need to hook these up to an electrical outlet to let it scour your pool’s perimeter effectively. “They can pick up a range of debris, from larger particles to smaller pieces. Anything from sand, pebbles, leaves, and twigs can be picked up by a robotic cleaner,” explains Wells.
Robotic pool vacuum measurements often focus on the suction or flow rate, or how much water it takes in gallons per hour (GPH). The higher the suction rate, the more effective a cleaner is at filtering water, especially in terms of speed.
Features and Functionality
One of the most important features of a robotic pool vacuum, in Wells‘s opinion, is Wi-Fi compatibility. “This allows you to remotely control your cleaner and access it through your personal device,” he points out, which means you can set up a weekly cleaning routine to keep your pool squeaky clean, no matter if you’re home or not—though it’s definitely not a deal breaker. The other options on our list all include easy usability: You can still set up a cleaning schedule with most or turn it on at the press of a button and it will putter around your pool until it’s done.
Q: So how do robotic pool cleaners actually work?
Just like any robot vacuum, but underwater! The best robotic pool cleaners still offer the same hands-free cleaning experience you may already know and love indoors, but with a bit more finesse. “They scrub the surface with their brush to loosen and pick up any dirt or growth stuck to the bottom and sides of the pool,” says Wells.
Q: Can I expect my robotic pool cleaner to last longer than one summer?
“Robotic cleaners typically last around five to seven years; however parts like wheels or brushes may have to be replaced after a few years,” offers Wells. “With maintenance and repairs, they can last you many years, but most pool owners like to upgrade after a while to take advantage of new features and technology.”
Proper care and maintenance are key to your tool’s longevity. “Clean those filter baskets two to four times a week, daily if you have a lot of trees around the pool,” notes Jones. “Cleaning out the robot basket will play a huge role in performance. And if you want to set it and forget it, purchase a pool robot that has a built-in weekly timer.”
Q: How often should I be running my robotic pool cleaner?
Keeping green algae and gunk at bay is all really dependent on the type of pool you have, how big it is, how often you use it (and how many people are swimming in it), and even just what the nearby tree canopy is like. If it’s under some full branches, you’re more likely to have to empty your bot’s canister or tray daily, as it will fill up quickly with fallen leaves. Dedicating a few hours each day, in general, is enough—there’s no need to have it run from sunrise to sunset, adds Jones. In fact, most bots promise to complete a cleaning cycle in just an hour.
The Last Word
It’s no secret that pools are a lot of work, whether it’s figuring out the right amount of algicides or brushing up on your chemistry knowledge to understand what the water truly needs to be clear and healthy. There is one way to take some of the guesswork out of maintenance: the best robotic pool cleaners. These bots independently putter around your pool’s perimeter without worry (even if you forgot to put away your pool floats the night before), either focusing on just a few key areas (one of our top picks is essentially a high-tech skimmer) or taking on the whole floor and climbing up every wall. No matter what you need help with, the best robotic pool cleaners are all about hands-free cleaning.